Witch hazel is the common name for the winter-flowering shrub “hamamelis”. It’s also known as “winterbloom” and produces a show of spidery flowers in yellows, oranges and reds along with a spicy fragrance. 1 Witch hazel is native to North America and common in many gardens. Witch hazel uses and health benefits are long known by North America indigenous people for its medicinal properties and today we recognize witch hazel’s strong antioxidant and astringent properties.
Witch hazel’s natural antioxidants are perfect for killing bacteria that lives in the skin’s pores, stopping cellular damage that can lead to skin cancer, prevent signs of aging and speeding up healing. 2,3 When it comes to natural skin care, there may be no more effective plant than witch hazel. The bark, twigs and leaves are used to extract active constituents called polyphenols and tannins. They’re then added to either alcohol or water to make a concentrated product called witch hazel water, hamamelis water or distilled witch hazel extract. The extract can be used topically on the surface of the skin or taken internally as a witch hazel acne remedy. 3
Tannins are responsible for making witch hazel extract a natural astringent since they remove excess oil from the skin and are tremendously effective in local pain relief. This is the reason witch hazel is one of the most popular acne treatments and is a main ingredient in so many over the counter treatment gels, creams, lotions and washes. 3 Witch hazel extract is also considered polyphenolic and has been shown to help inhibit human cancer cell proliferation by stopping mutated cell cycles. 3 Witch hazel health benefits and uses are primarily for the skin and skin-related disorders. Commonly, witch hazel uses include:
Most adults and children react well to witch hazel as a topical treatment and don’t experience any side effects. Some people may have an allergic reaction to witch hazel especially if they have sensitive skin or spend a lot of time in the sun. To be on the safe side, it’s best to do a test patch on the skin first. Put a small amount on an arm or leg and watch for a reaction. 3 Internally, witch hazel is safe even for pregnant women. Some report mild indigestion or heartburn but there are no known cases of a dangerous reaction to a regular dose. 3
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